Just Believe

“Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

Read this verse over and over. What is Jesus whispering to you?

The whisper I hear this morning is “just believe.” It sounds so simple. In fact, that is what we tell people going through tough times, just believe, just trust, its going to be ok. That is easy to think and say until the unthinkable happens. When your shaken to the core it is hard to understand what faith is. It is hard to know how to believe.

Lent is a good time to think about our faith. What do you believe? Is your faith in God or is it based on lies of who you want God to be? I found that I often believed in God as far as I could understand. The problem with that, it makes God too small. Our verse is about a man who had done the same thing. His son was inflicted by an evil spirit. The disciples couldn’t help him, so he went directly to Jesus. He pleaded, if you can, please help us. Jesus repeats “if you can? Everything is possible for him who believes.” (vs 23)

The reality is our faith isn’t a constant. It should be moving, growing, maturing. If it stands still it is dying. This doesn’t mean we have it all together all the time. Sometimes it feels like we are falling apart. Sometimes we can’t find the strength or courage to approach God. This doesn’t mean we don’t have faith. It means we need help. It means we are wounded. It means we need healing. Sometimes it means we need rest. Sometimes we need more. Where are you right now?

 

As I meditate I know that I need more. I do believe but I need help with my unbelief. It is a cry for Jesus to help us. After my dad had His stroke and only a year and a half later my wife being diagnosed with cancer I was at a point where I couldn’t handle any more. I believed but my unbelief was in full swing. I didn’t want to talk to God because I was afraid of what was to come. I was afraid that He was mad at me. I was afraid I was mad at Him. But I continued to meditate each morning sometimes at a distance. What I learned was you have to keep on keeping on. Sometimes we don’t feel like praying but those are the times we need prayer the most. Sometimes we don’t want to seek God but those are the times we need God the most.

Faith is believing even when we don’t feel like it. Believing even when we don’t have anything to believe in. God hasn’t left you. You’re not alone. Even in your sin Jesus died for you. That is the love of God. That is what it means to be held. You don’t have to have the right words or even the right feelings. Just sit in stillness and let God hug you. Let go of the hurt and pain, cry on His shoulders and a burden will be lifted. It may come back but each time just let it out. Holding on to the pain is more than anyone can bare. The load is too heavy. We can’t live with that burden. Let it go and just believe.

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Be Willing to Be Weak

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10 b

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

The whisper I hear this morning is “be willing to be weak.” Not something we generally strive for. All through life we strive to be the strongest at something, whether that is sports or business or even in relationships. But as Christians we are to be weak so that we can be strong. Sounds confusing.

It all boils down to reality. We want a life of ease. A life without hardship or struggle but that isn’t the way life is. Instead of running from struggle we should run to it. Instead of hiding our pain we need to embrace it. That is the message Paul is giving us in his second letter to the Corinthians. Paul had a thorn in His side. Something we can only speculate as to what it was, but he didn’t like it and felt it hindered his ministry, so he pleaded for God to take it away. Instead of healing him or giving him relief God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, My power is made perfect in weakness.”

Our witness, our ministry, our purpose comes from our circumstances. We are living and experiencing the same things everyone else is, the difference is we are living with Jesus in our hearts. People will see the difference. They will want what we have. Our job is to help those who go through what we have. Teach them how to rely on Jesus. Jesus is our strength. He is our comfort, our help.
If things were easy, we wouldn’t have to rely on God. What kind of witness would that be? Through our struggles we learn just how weak humans are. Even though we try, there is still no cure for death. We will all die. Then what? We know that death isn’t the end. If we rely on Jesus, we will live for eternity in heaven. If we don’t we will live in eternal damnation. There are people who don’t realize this. People who are stuck living in their own power thinking that it doesn’t matter or that they can some how be good enough that it won’t happen to them. That is a lie of the devil. Just telling them it is a lie doesn’t change their minds. They need to see it, experience it. That is where our witness comes in. They need to see how we handle struggle and pain. They need to see how we are at peace when the world falls apart around us. They will see a power beyond ourselves and want it.

Strength through weakness is not easy to sell. It isn’t something that anyone can fully understand until we experience it. It is what happens when we let go and let God. When we are weak, God is strong in us. The big deal about the disciples is people saw ordinary men doing extraordinary things. If we succeed in our strengths, then people will assume it is by our doing. If we succeed in something we shouldn’t be able to do, then people take notice. They are willing to accept it was God and not me. So we must be willing to be weak so that God can be strong.

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We are but Dust…

“…for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:19

Read this verse over and over. What is God whispering to you?

“Happy Valentine’s day you sinner.” This feels like what most people are thinking that Christians are like this Valentine’s day and Ash Wednesday. It has become a joke that we embrace. Speaking of jokes I keep thinking about the child who started crying in church on Ash Wednesday. The father asked what was wrong? The child said, “I don’t want to be butt dust.”

All jokes aside Happy Valentine’s Day and happy Ash Wednesday. These two days seem to be in contradiction of each other but, in reality, they go well together. Both are about love. St Valentine was known for His love. The legend goes that He helped pass love notes between lovers jailed for being Christians. He is also said to have been big on performing weddings. He is said to have performed a miracle of giving a young girl sight. The emperor Gothicus heard about it and beheaded him for being a Christian. His festival day has grown to be what it is today, Valentine’s Day. Ash Wednesday is about love too. The love of God, sending His one and only Son to die for our sins and our response to that love.

We often forget that Lent is about love. We focus on how bad we are and forget how good God is. That is the point. Even though we are sinners Jesus died to save us. Our response should be of humility. We are but dust and to dust we shall return. But Jesus will raise us on the last day, reunite our bodies with our Spirit and we shall live forever.

The importance of our verse today is it comes from the passage of the fall of man. When man sinned God reminded Adam and Eve of who they were. Their life and the lives of all of mankind changed because of that sin. Jesus is the second Adam who came to save us from that fate of eternal death. Those who believe in Jesus as our Savoir will live forever. Our sins are forgiven. That is a story of God’s love. He loved us so much that He would not leave us in our sin, separated from Him. He gave His all to save us.

Love is more than giving candy and flowers. It is giving our life for the sake of others. This doesn’t have to mean dying. It means giving up our wants and desires for the sake of others. Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor. Visiting the lonely. Helping the disabled. It is showing compassion to those in pain or are struggling. Humbling ourselves to be servants instead of expecting to be served. This Lent let us focus on Love. What does it mean to Love? How can you show love to God and others?

It is important to do this in our congregations, but it is even more important to go out to the lost. You can’t save the lost if you are surrounded by the found. Who needs love in your community? Go and show that love to them.

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You Are Mine

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;” Psalm 139:14

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

This morning the whisper I hear is “you are Mine.” Our verse is David admitting that God made us, and we are His. This means that God made us each special. Think about that.

In Psalm 139, David talks about not being able to hide from God, that He knows all about us, in fact He knew us in the special place before we were formed. That is a God of love. He formed us. Therefore, life is precious. God gives us value that we can’t give, nor can we take it away. Meditate on that thought for a moment. What does that mean to you? How would that change the way you live? How you treat others?

Each of us has value in God’s eyes. There is no one who is throw away or worthless. Everyone has great value. That is why we should serve one another. That is why it is so important that we share the Gospel. When you look at someone you are looking at someone loved by God. You are looking at someone that God deemed so valuable that He died for them. How does that change your attitude toward others?

This Lent consider treating everyone as if they are of great value to you as they are to God. Show them the love they need. Show them the value they have in Jesus. Let them know that God says, “you are Mine!”

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Resurrection Power

“For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him…” 2 Corinthians 13:4

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

This morning the Holy Spirit is reminding us that as Christians we have “resurrection power” running in us. Do you feel it?

Our verse comes from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. This is part of a final warning to them. He is saying that the sinners will be held accountable. We are to examine ourselves. If we are faithful, then we will recognize that Jesus Christ in us. Others will see it too. If not, then we are living in sin.

This Wednesday is not only Valentine’s Day but also Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time to examine ourselves. To realize our sin and repent of it. It is a time to prepare ourselves for the Resurrection. To ponder what it means to us and others. Where is your faith today? What sins plague you? Who is in control of your life? These are questions to ask ourselves.

If you don’t like the answers or if they don’t line up with Christians ideals, then it is time to change. Now is a great time to start. During Lent we can do many things to help with our faith. One is to fast. This is giving something up to help our prayer life. It is meant to remind us to pray and to make our prayers more meaningful. We can give up things that we love like candy, Facebook, video games, TV, etc. or we can focus on stopping a certain sin. If there is something that is keeping you from being closer to God, we could give it up. If there is something that has become a distraction, or an area that you constantly stumble, we could concentrate on giving it to God. We could start something new, like reading the Bible, meditating every day, serving in the church, serving the poor, helping those who need help. The list is endless. The key is focusing on God’s love, grace and mercy and responding to it.

We can start by praying to God to help us see what would be best for us during this Lent. Be prepared to be pushed. But remember you have the power of God in you. The power of the resurrection means the power of being remade. It means we can die to self and rise as a new creation in the image of Jesus.

The power of God is more than we can imagine which means if God calls us to it He will give us what we need to get through it. Don’t pick the easy thing, go deeper, allow God to take over. Give up your life for a life serving Jesus. Allow that resurrection power to remake your life. Shine the light of Christ everywhere!

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I Will Help You

I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:12

Read this verse over and over. What is God whispering to you?

As if an answer to some prayers God whispers “I will help you.” I want to live in God’s will but who am I that I should be able to do His will? I am a poor miserable sinner who tries to do my will too often. So, I pray. I pray a lot, asking God to help me. This is usually His answer.

Our verse comes from Moses being called by God to go to Egypt to set His people free. Like Moses we are called to set people free as well. We are called to help people escape themselves by bringing them to God. How can I do that? I’m a nobody, who would listen to me besides, what would I say? These are the questions we all have when we realize what God wants of us. Let’s look at what Moses says and God’s answer in Exodus 4:10-12 “Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue. The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.

When we question our call, we question God. God will not call us to something that He isn’t willing to give us what we need to accomplish it. If we are to speak He will give us the words. If we are to listen, He will take the words from our mouth. The key is to trust God and let Him work through us.

The question to ask ourselves is, are we usable. The problem with our answers are we tend to answer in our own point of view. I don’t see myself as worthy of God using me. Some people can’t get passed the idea of being used. Still others don’t think God wants to use anyone. We must get past those human thoughts and let God decide how and when He wants to use us. This means being open, being usable. Willing to listen for God’s nudge. Putting our hearts in a place to want to love others. Being willing to hear before we speak or act.

Being usable to God doesn’t mean being open to abuse. That is the human way of use. Humans use and abuse not God. Being usable means allowing God to control our thoughts and actions. Allowing God, through the Holy Spirit, to guide us and give us the words to use. We become usable when we pray, study, read the Bible, and hear the message preached. We try to do what is right to the best of our ability but understanding that our right and God’s right can be different, so we must look and pray for guidance. Being usable means, we are willing to step out of our comfort zone. That we look for the good in every situation and trust that God can use us anywhere and anytime.

I’m not always usable. I’m better than I used to be, but I have a long way to go. Sometimes I think I know better than God and try to do things on my own. Sometimes I think I’m too tired to be used. God knows best. When I’m tired I’m weak and God is strong in our weakness. So, to be used we must be willing to be weak, to be vulnerable. Our witness comes from our failures that set up the triumphs. People will listen to others in their humility. We connect in our weaknesses.

God is calling us to stop making excuses and trust Him. He will help us. We are not alone. We are never given a task without help to accomplish it. If you are struggling, let God in. Let God take over. Let God turn your struggles into triumphs.

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Be Mine

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40

Read this verse over and over. What is Jesus whispering to you?

This morning the whisper I hear from Jesus is “be mine.” I know Valentine’s day is a week away. But this is the text that jumped off the page at me this morning. The Love of God is so great that His will is for us to look to the Son and believe in Him so that we can live with God for eternity.

For many this will is difficult to accept. Why? Well, lets dig a little deeper. The word for “looks to” is a difficult one to translate. It can have many meanings. It could mean to be a spectator of, to see, but it could also mean to experience, discern or intensely acknowledge. I think it is more than just seeing or watching Jesus because He adds “and believes in Him.” This is the word for having faith, to entrust one’s spiritual well being to Christ (Him). So, we look to Jesus, we see him as our Savior and we entrust our spirit to Him. This isn’t an on the surface kind of belief. It isn’t just saying that Jesus is the Son of God, the devil will acknowledge that, it is accepting Him as our Savior and giving control over to Him.

Now God’s will just got real. God’s will is turning our lives over to His Son. Don’t just pay Him lip service. Just going to church on Sunday doesn’t cut it. It is a life serving God. It is a life of being Jesus to those around us. It is more.

Honestly, I get little butterflies in my stomach as I think about it. Have I given my whole life over to Jesus? Do I live for Him all the time? I hate to admit that the answer is no. I struggle. So where does that leave those of us who are still sinners? It means we must rely on God’s grace. No longer are we trying to please God, but we are letting God love us through His Son. We let go of our need for control. We stop trying to do and we just be.

It is hard to explain. It is something that is experienced. I think this is where so much of the fighting occurs in our Christian denominations. Salvation is important. It is literally life and death. I don’t want to see anyone perish because of something I did, said or didn’t do. So, we try hard to save people. The problem is it is not our job to save. It is our job to believe and to point others to Jesus. Salvation is the job of Jesus. We must love and let God teach. Let God handle their souls. We must allow God to use us as part of that process. Sin and all. This means seeking forgiveness. Being humble but confident. Teaching relationships with God. Preaching the Word of God and not our own agenda. Too much of religion is driven by our pride and not by grace.

Why are so many leaving the church? I believe our pride drives them out, but Grace will bring them back. This doesn’t mean we stop preaching truth. We still have to teach the hard teachings but instead of beating people over the head with the law we need to love them. Forgive them. Teach them to read the Bible and let the Holy Spirit convict them. When they are convicted we can’t shrug it off and say it is ok, ignore that. We must help them change and support their change, but that change starts with us. We must allow the Spirit to convict us and then we must truly repent which means turning from our sin. Turn from our pride. Embrace God’s love and live God’s love.

People know there is more. They hunger for more. They are tired of the empty feeling that they have. But when they come to a community that is full of pride, they see that same emptiness that they have. Why would they join that? We must know God’s love, then we must live God’s love. When we live God’s love we can’t help but share His love. People want that. They thirst for it. They will come. There are still those who are so lost in their sin they will push away. We have to pray for those people and keep loving them. Love will break down the walls. Humility will drop their guard. God will save their soul through us if we allow Him. Stop being in control and hear Jesus’ call to “be mine.”

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Put on Christ

“[Take] off your old self with its practices and … put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:9-10

Read these verses over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

This morning the whisper I hear is to “put on Christ.” It is interesting. The Greek words used in our text are used to describe how you take off and put on garments. We should take off those old tattered dirty clothes we are wearing and put on the new clean clothes of Christ.

Our verse comes from the letter of Paul to the Colossians. In this part Paul is telling the Colossians how to live a holy life. Our lives should reflect our faith. He isn’t saying that we are perfect, “which is being renewed in knowledge of the image of its Creator.” He is saying that even though we are still being renewed our actions should still represent Christ. Take off anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language (vs 8). Put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (vs 12). Is it really that easy? Can we just change our clothes and be a better person?

My first response is that it can’t be that easy, but Paul says it is. Paul tells us we already know how to live; the key is choosing to live the way of Christ. We have all that we need to do so. Stop living in automatic mode in which we just react without thinking or without consideration of those around us. Put away our pride and this won’t be so hard. Live with humility and we won’t have much trouble.

Paul takes away our excuses. We live in Christ. We have no excuse for living out evil. It is time to start acting like Christians, full of love not malice. Thinking about others instead of self. Look at Jesus. He was so patient with the sinners but had little patience with the Pharisees. The Pharisees new better but choose self over love. We know better. Do we choose self over love?

The old clothes are the most comfortable at first. I don’t even notice the dirt and stains on them. That is our problem. We are too comfortable in our sin. How do you react when someone points out your stains? Do you change your clothes, or do you keep wearing them? Honestly it depends on where I am. I wear my old clothes with stains and dirt around my family and those I work with. As I think about it that is also how I tend to act. I’m on my guard out in public but with my family I tend to let my sin run free.

Life with Christ shouldn’t be one way at church and another at home or work. We should keep those new clothes on. Shine the light of Christ where ever we go. Every morning when we get up we should put on Christ and keep Christ on all day.

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Not the Only Ones

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 a
Read this verse over and over. What is the God whispering to you?

This morning God is reminding us that we aren’t the only ones to go through temptations. Our verse comes from the first letter Paul wrote to the Corinthians. In this part of the letter he is warning us to be careful not to sin. He reminds us that Israel’s history is examples for us. They fell to temptation even though they had all they needed to resist. We are tempted as they were. Don’t let their lessons fall on deaf ears. Learn from them.

Oh, but we have all the excuses. Our temptation is greater than theirs. They had it easy. Don’t fall for that one. There is no excuse for sin. And this is coming from a big sinner. Often our sin makes us feel isolated. We feel like we are alone. That our temptation is greater than all others. That is a lie of the devil. If he can isolate us then we are easy pickings. If he can get us to believe that we can’t resist because our temptation is greater than other people, then we are easy pickings. I know because I have fallen for all those tricks.

Here is reality. If we do something because we don’t think it will harms us, or we think we deserve it, or it is our turn for fun or just fill in the blank with any selfish idea you can think of, you can bet it is sin. Sin is anything done in our will instead of God’s. It is that simple yet that complicated. When we live for self we are lost in sin. When we live for God we are in His will but don’t let your guard down. Our selfishness is always ready to come out. We can do things that we justify for God, but it is really about our control.

The reality is we will fail. We will fall. The key is to stop making excuses. Acknowledge sin and repent of it. Let go of our pride and humble ourselves so that the Holy Spirit can take over helping us to live in God’s grace. We are not alone. God has given us help in the Bible. He has sent His Son to save us. He gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us. Just listen. Pray and study. Resist with the help of God. Confess to others. Share each other’s burdens and temptations. Help each other to resist. Learn from people who have gone through what you are going through. Learn from your mistakes and teach others.

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He Will Lift You Up

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

This morning the Holy Spirit is reminding me that God is great, and He will elevate us to greatness if we allow Him. I’m also reminded that God can’t lift us up if we have elevated ourselves already. Instead we will fall.

Our verse comes from a section of James in which He is reminding us that we are nothing on our own, but God is everything. If we submit ourselves to Him, He will lift us up to greatness. It goes along with what Jesus says in Matthew 23:12 “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

We are not here for ourselves. We are here to worship God. With that means many things. It means God is our master and we are His servants. This means we are to acknowledge God as our master. It means we are not greater than He or anyone. We are who He made us to be. We are here to serve Him. As servants we do the will of God. But we humans don’t like being servants. We want to be served. So, we try to make God our servant. We try to manipulate Him thinking that somehow, we are in charge. ‘God if you do this, I will do this.’ Or ‘God I will only believe in you if you do what I ask.’ If things don’t go our way, then there must not be a God. Or if God askes us to do something we are uncomfortable with, well, we say no. The worst of all is we go about our day not thinking about God at all. That is exalting ourselves. When we exalt ourselves, we will be humbled.

Humility is an interesting animal. It is not pretending to be lower than we are. That isn’t humility, that is acting. Humility means being who we are without making a big deal out it. It is serving God, doing our part, without the need of fan fair. We don’t need to build ourselves up because we see that God is the only one worthy of such praise. It is understanding that without God we are nothing. Ultimate humility is not thinking of ourselves at all and instead thinking about how we can serve God with love by serving others and putting them first. When we do this, God’s greatness will shine through us.
Humility is part of worship. We are to worship God all the time. This means doing His will. Acknowledging Him as Lord, our master. Praising Him and loving Him. It means serving Him in all we do. This is hard to do. The world wants to serve itself. We are taught to take care of our self first, then worry about others. So, we spend our time trying to be better than everyone around us. This usually means putting people down, pretending to be someone we aren’t, trying to impress those we see as great. It leads to worshiping others and ultimately, we are left with emptiness and shame. When we try to be someone we aren’t, we will fail. God doesn’t need to bring shame on us because that shame will come naturally.

Pride is evil. Pride will never win because it is the nature of evil. Pride requires us to put ourselves above others at the cost of others. They will only allow that if you bring them up with you. But once they have risen as far as you can take them, they will turn on you to take your spot. Evil feeds on evil. If there is no evil in you, then it must feed on itself. Therefore, good wins by just being good.

We will never be exalted if we want to be exalted. We can’t become humble with the thinking that we will then be exalted. It doesn’t work that way. If we want to be exalted, we will try to do it ourselves. But if we allow God to be our master. If we accept our position and our purpose, God will exalt us just because He will shine through us. He will lift us up because we are His.

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